David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophical Psychology 2 (1):111 – 124 (1989)
A theory of syllogistic reasoning is proposed, derived from the medieval doctrine of 'distribution of terms'. This doctrine may or may not furnish an adequate ground for the logic of the syllogism but does appear to illuminate the psychological processes involved. Syllogistic thinking is shown to have its origins in the approach and avoidance behaviour of pre-verbal organisms and, in verbal (human) organisms, to bridge the gap between the intuitive grasp shown by most of us of the validity of simple logical arguments and the failure of intuition in more complex arguments that require resort to calculation. Some difficulties are considered affecting the use of syllogisms as experimental material. These include failure on the part of the investigator to take account of the fact that a syllogism is always part of a continuing argument in which the topic of the argument is known to all parties and the possibility that subjects may find ways of appearing to solve syllogisms without actually doing so.
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